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Gardening Articles: Care :: Plant Care Techniques

Perfecting Your Soil for Peas

by National Gardening Association Editors

Soil preparation is one of the most important steps in growing a good crop of peas or peanuts (or any vegetable, for that matter). Your vegetables will be only as good as the earth in which they grow.

Your Kind of Soil

If this is your first gardening venture, you may be curious about what kind of soil you have in your garden: sand, clay, loam or a combination of these soils.

Your local Cooperative Extension Service agent will tell you where to send a soil sample for various tests, including type of soil and its organic content. The service also provides you with suggestions for improving your soil.

Working the Soil

As soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, till or spade your garden (with a shovel, heavy spading fork or rotary tiller) to a depth of eight to 10 inches. If the soil is soggy from melting snow or spring rains, wait until it's dry enough to work. To test your soil, squeeze a handful of it into a ball. If you can break the ball easily by poking it with your index finger, your soil is dry enough to be worked. When you've thoroughly worked the soil, it should be loose, friable and free of clumps.

If you're breaking lawn or areas that have been in sod, make sure that the clumps of grass are turned over so that the roots are facing the sun. This will help prevent the unwanted grass from making a reappearance in the garden.

Seeds need oxygen and loose soil to germinate properly, so thoroughly loosen your garden soil before planting. The looser the soil, the easier it is for plant roots to stretch out to take in the necessary food, water and oxygen.

In addition to creating a well-prepared seedbed, working the soil cuts down on the weeding you'll have to do later on. Each time you cultivate, tiny weed seeds are brought to the surface where they die. Others are buried too deeply to germinate. Either way it's less weeding later on.

Once your seeds are planted there's little you can do about improving the soil's texture and organic content, so it's essential that you spend time on it before sowing seeds.

Improving the Soil

If your soil is less than perfect - and most are - you'll want to start improving it. The healthier the soil, the healthier your vegetables. The best method for enhancing any type of garden soil is to incorporate organic matter - old leaves, hay, grass clippings, compost, biodegradable kitchen scraps or even harvested pea and peanut vines - into it. Organic matter serves as a glue, holding sandy soil particles together. However, in clay soils it wedges in between soil particles, loosening or lightening the soil, allowing water and air to reach plant roots. There's no special season for working organic matter into your garden; do it anytime except when crops are growing. However, adding organic matter in fall allows it plenty of time to break down before spring planting.

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